A/N: This was originally going to have a plot, but then as it got longer, and I got further into Marian's head, I decided a story didn't necessarily need a plot. Therefore, if you don't like monologuing, leave now.
On the eve of her wedding, Marian passed her time trying to forget that this was the eve of her wedding. Of course, this was an impossible feat. How could she forget that by this time tomorrow she would be Lady Gisbourne?
Lady Marian Gisbourne. She rolled the words around her mouth, tasting them, testing them. Sir Guy of Gisbourne. Her fiancé, and a man about whom she did not know how she felt. There was not one clear label she could put to their relationship, and sometimes she thought she was grateful for that. It was much easier not to confront those feelings and that relationship.
Tonight, though, was no time for shying away. Tomorrow, he would be her husband. Every day tomorrow. Forever. She didn't quite know how she felt about that prospect. Which begged the question: how then did she feel about Guy?
So many people dismissed him as a cold, unfeeling man, but Marian knew better. She had seen the fervour in his eyes when he asked her to marry him, the fervid anger when he thought she'd betrayed him. Sir Guy was a deeply passionate man, but his passion was slow to ignite, and a quick burning flame. Yet when it was lit, the fires consumed anything and everything in their path. During the brief times when Guy was roused, he was a hurricane, a black storm, tearing through the world and leaving havoc in his wake; nevertheless, a fire can warm as well as burn, and a wind can cool as well as blow. Marian just had to be wary.
What else was there to say about Guy? He was stubborn. When he decided he wanted something, he would go out and get it. When he decided he wanted a bride, he would stop at nothing to bend her to his will, and he would think not of the short term hurts, but the long term gains. When he decided he wanted an outlaw caught, he would cut out innocent tongues to get information, and he would do so thinking not of these unfortunates, but of the outlaw. He was blinkered, like a horse that must be forced to see in only one direction, and Marian sometimes wondered who had blinkered the horse.
Because Guy could feel compassion. He could feel guilt and regret and sympathy. She had seen these things in his ice-blue eyes when he spoke to her on the night of his proposal, when he realised that he had put her in danger from the Sheriff. She had heard him ask the Sheriff whether or not he must use pain to keep his villagers in line. Even if he went ahead and inflicted whatever torture he was told to inflict, he considered abstaining. This proved that Guy was capable of feeling compassion, and it was proved that he was able to stop himself feeling it, and it was because of this that Marian could empathise with Sir Guy of Gisbourne.
She, too, had learned to have the fiercest possible control on her emotions. She, too, kept her heart well and truly reined in; it was her mind that governed her. Yet it had not always been so. She smiled once, a bitter smile, knowing the cause for the change and detesting it with resentful familiarity. Of course it had been Robin's leaving for the Holy Land. Marian still did not like to think on that time, but it didn't hurt now. She had made sure of that.
For when Robin left, Marian had been utterly ruled by her emotions, as so many young girls are. Her terror for him, her loneliness, her loss and the fierce pride that had been so cruelly hacked to pieces fought for dominance in her ravaged heart. In those days that followed, her emotions had turned inwards, tearing her apart from the inside until she was unable to feel at all. This odd sensation of living without life would have scared her if she were able to feel fear, but nothingness was her only constant companion then, and the nothingness was comforting. For months she had remained trapped in her dead, beating heart, until the new Sheriff had introduced a tax on children.
"Children?" she had asked her father in disbelief.
"Yes," he had replied wearily. "For each child in his family, a man must pay three shillings."
"But they can't afford that!" Marian had fumed.
It had not been until that night, when she was close to sleep, that Marian had realised that she had felt something. It had been anger, to be sure, but it was something. She was still alive, somewhere in there. Over the next few weeks she had acquired a mask, a scarf and some men's clothing, and thus had the Nightwatchman been born. Thus had been born the woman Marian was today: capable of feeling, but also capable of nothingness. Nothingness was a useful tool, at times.
She was sure Sir Guy had found that, too.
Were they really so different? Marian was stubborn like him; her unmarried state paid proof to that. Perhaps she was not blinkered, but she could have blinkered herself. How tempting it had been to ignore Robin entirely when he returned, to not help him as she did, to let him stew in his own merry mess and to hell with the people who relied on him. It had been equally tempting to believe that she could deal with the poor of Nottingham on her own. She could have spurned his cause with pleasure. She would never have done that, but the thought had been there. Did that make her so much better than Guy?
Nevertheless, there was still the most striking difference between the betrothed: the fact that he loved her, whilst she did not love him.
Robin did not want to believe that Guy loved her, but Marian knew better. Guy was obsessed with her, desperate to be with her, to protect her. She had to respect that. He had defied the Sheriff for her, for goodness' sake! Guy was the Sheriff's most loyal supporter, he never went against orders and yet he had done so for her.
The problem was that he only loved what he could see, and Guy was blinkered. By necessity he didn't see the Nightwatchman or the Marian who was aiding and abetting a gang of outlaws. He didn't love all of her. Only what he saw, and what he wanted to see.
What Marian saw of Guy, she did not love.
There were times when she hated the man. When he tormented the villagers of Locksley, when he bowed to whatever the Sheriff wanted, she despised him. Even so, what she had said to Robin about his having good qualities was true. He cared about her, which was obviously the most important thing, and he was not... displeasing to the eye, which was obviously not important at all, but there was more than that. There was a spark of goodness in Guy, a seed which maybe she could nurture into fruition. He would change for her, she knew. If she could convince him that it was best to treat his peasants well, he would do it for her. She might even be able to convince him to go against the Sheriff every now and again. Maybe he was right, and she could make him into a better man.
Being married to Guy would not be too disagreeable, she thought. There were worse men in the world, and worse marriages had been arranged. She could reconcile herself to being Lady Gisbourne without too much difficulty, after a while. It would be the first few days and weeks which would seem impossible.
First, there would be the wedding itself. She would find it difficult, she knew, to promise forever when her mind could not and would not grasp the concept, and when her heart shied away from being tethered. What was more, her father would not be there to give her away. Edward would be welcoming home the King of England. He could not be there for her as he always had been before, and she would miss him sorely, and worry for him. And then there was the fact that she was to be married in Locksley church, where once upon a time she had dreamed of a very similar ceremony...
But the ceremony would be bearable. To say a few words would be tolerable. To be kissed... well, she had been kissed by Guy before.
The wedding feast would be bearable. It might even border on agreeable, if she could keep her mind on the villagers who were getting a free meal, and all the leftovers. That would lessen the outlaws' workload for the following few days.
Yes, the day would be bearable. But the night...
Marian had grown up without a mother, Lady Katherine having died in childbirth. She had been raised by nursemaids and servants who spent their service to her rather in fear of the highly-strung young mistress. Her father had helped where he could, but he had been rather at a loss with his daughter. Moreover, Marian's own choice of playmates were the young Master Robin and his manservant, Much, and all the ruffians they spent their time with. Small wonder, then, that Marian had never professed to love the feminine arts, growing instead to love horse riding and archery. Small wonder as well that she had very little idea of what awaited her in the marriage bed.
Naturally, she knew the logistics of the act, having gleaned knowledge from a thousand different locations. She knew her own body and she had seen images of a man's, and she would have been logician enough to interpret the differences even if she hadn't known vaguely how animals were bred. What she didn't know was how it would feel, whether it would hurt, what Guy would expect, what she should do... What she didn't know was everything else, and that made her uncomfortable to say the least. She liked to be in control of whatever situation she happened to be in, and she had no idea what she was doing. Pray God that Guy would take pity on her and tell her, for she knew for certain that he knew what he was doing; the kitchen girl Annie had borne a child by him.
This issue, his blemished chastity, bothered her not at all. He was a man, and men were expected to behave so. The events had occurred before their betrothal and so it had nothing to do with her. More worrying was the way that he had left the babe to die, but she knew he would never treat a legitimate child so, therefore she need not worry for her own children. Children were a subject that Marian barely thought about. They would come if they would come, and she would love them and take care of them. The idea did not worry her; she had always known she would be a mother one day. She had been prepared for that role, at least, since birth. She had not been prepared for them being conceived in an ex-lover's bed.
She could not think of that.
Anyway, she knew that she would survive the wedding night. She might even enjoy the experience, though she found that hard to believe now.
In the weeks following, Marian would have to make some major changes to her lifestyle, the most drastic of which would be giving up the Nightwatchman. She had already burnt her mask; it wouldn't do for Guy to find it, especially not now. She would have a hard enough time trying to explain away the wound on her stomach if he caught sight of it. At the moment, she was hoping that he wouldn't be too suspicious if she remained covered up; she could always claim she was shy. If that didn't work, though, she was planning to pretend she had fallen from her horse, which was why she had been indisposed when he visited a few days ago. Even if he fell for that, it was still sore; she hoped it wouldn't hurt too much tomorrow night. She wasn't foolish enough to hope that it wouldn't hurt at all, but she hoped it wouldn't hurt so much that she would betray the pain to Guy. Perhaps that would be manageable.
Forcefully, Marian refocused her mind. She would miss the Nightwatchman. Not only feeding the people of Nottingham, but also fighting back at the Sheriff, and the escape it provided from the strictures and constraints of the life of Lady Marian. It would be difficult to give up that freedom, even if she had to admit that the Nightwatchman was hardly needed any more. Though more help could never be bad, it was no longer a life or death situation thanks to Robin and the gang.
With regard to the gang, she could probably me more use to them as Lady Gisbourne. She would have easier access to more information, and Guy would trust her far more. This was a definite advantage of her marriage. Provided the gang was still needed, of course. With any luck, the King would depose the Sheriff and the absurd taxes would be abolished. Robin and the others would be pardoned, and all would be right with the world.
It was so difficult to imagine the King coming home. England had been ruled by corrupt nobles and the extravagant Prince John for so long that it was difficult to imagine anything else becoming a reality. Marian couldn't shake off the feeling that it wouldn't really happen. Beyond that even, there were the selfish notions that told her that the King's return would be the end of her. If Locksley was returned to Robin, as it should be, then Guy would be left with nothing; the Gisbournes had no land of their own, and of course she would share his fate. They would be reduced to living with her father at Knighton, or taking up permanent residence in the castle. But what if the King not only deposed the Sheriff, but found him guilty of treason? That would incriminate Guy, and Guy was far from blameless for the wrongs that had been done in Nottingham. If Guy were to be executed, she would genuinely grieve for him, but she would also become a widow at twenty one years of age, and spoilt goods. True, she would be free again, but she would have nothing left; her title would be stripped from her, leaving her nothing but a traitor by association. She couldn't help but be more selfish still, and think worse, that Guy might not be executed, but instead imprisoned. King Richard was a merciful ruler; it was a definite possibility. She would be bound to him for life, known forever as a traitor's wife. Would there be anything worth living for?
Marian collapsed onto her bed, holding her head in her hands. She was being so negative about this marriage, exactly what she had been trying not to do. She had been trying to reconcile herself to this, seeing as she had no choice. She had been endeavouring to make the best of a bad situation.
It was late. She lay down and pulled the sheets over her weary, wounded body, shutting her eyes. Sleep, however, did not seem to want to claim her tonight. Her mind continued to dance around the subject of her marriage, alighting on what she had been trying so hard not to think of. For there were three more impediments to the possibility of wedded bliss, and they were as follows.
Herself and Robin.
To become Lady Gisbourne would be to lose Maid Marian. Even if Guy was left free, she would lose her freedom to practise archery and sword fighting and instead be forced to pursue more conventionally feminine interests. She would never again be free to speak as she wished, to put her needs before her husband's, to live her own life. Even the prospect of children seemed to be restrictive, tying her with silken chains to the house and home of her family. She would have no standing in the world, for Guy would not give her any. However he cared for her, he would expect her to be a traditional wife, staying behind her husband and supporting him. It was a bleak future that this brush painted, and Marian shuddered at the thought.
Robin posed several complex problems all by himself, the first being that he would no doubt find her repulsive once she had wedded and bedded his arch-enemy, in his bed, no less, and she did not know if she could stand that. There was also the fact that he was convinced Guy had tried to assassinate the King, and if the King believed him then Guy was doomed, and she along with him. What was more, despite her attempts to dissuade him, she was not convinced that Robin would not pull some stupid stunt at the wedding itself and get himself killed, which would be no good to anyone. Particularly because she didn't know if she could see him killed in front of her and not give away how she felt about him.
Which brought her neatly to the third problem: herself and Robin.
She loved him, and he loved her. They always had done. True, there had been times when she hated him, but she had always loved him. And in a simpler world, they would have been married and living in Locksley Manor by now. Perhaps she could have carried on ignoring this simple truth, but then she had nearly died, and lovesick fools that they were, they had gone and admitted it. Maybe 'admitted' was the wrong word, as they had forgone saying it straight out. Maybe 'proved' would be better. They couldn't doubt it now, but the only thing this knowledge would do was hurt them. It couldn't do any good to them at all. It just came in time to make absolutely certain that whatever she thought of her fiancé, Marian's wedding day would be torture to them both.
Was it possible to reconcile oneself to torture?
Marian was determined to try.